(Raleigh News and Observer) All his mother wanted to do was get help for her son. If he resumed taking his medications for bipolar disorder, he could get back on track.
But the police, who she hoped would take James Franklin Taylor Jr. to a crisis treatment center, instead booked him into the Wake County jail on assault charges. He has now been there for more than three months, refusing to take his medications or to even talk to anyone as he deteriorates into incoherence with no clear path out of jail.
That’s not the way it’s supposed to work, but Taylor’s situation is not unique. North Carolina’s county jails hold thousands of mentally ill inmates, some of them waiting for weeks or months to be evaluated or treated.
This is not just a problem in North Carolina. Over the past several decades across the country, patients who were phased out of large institutions so they could be treated in their communities found there wasn’t enough help. Without treatment, many ran afoul of the law and then tumbled into a nightmare of compounding problems.
Nationally, studies estimate between 15 and 20 percent of jail and prison inmates have a serious mental illness.
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